January 23, 2023

Article
3 min

Consider a Virtual Assistant to Shoulder the Load

A well-configured virtual assistant can help maximize the effectiveness of organizational applications and IT staff.

Daniel Snow

Your organization has an application that provides one or more critical services, but only a few people know how to administer it. Over a nearly 20-year IT career as both internal IT and as a consultant, this is a challenge I’ve seen nearly everywhere.

These administrators are almost always the longest serving, most highly skilled engineers with full calendars, who the organization can least afford to be working on Tier 1 level tasks. These are the types of tasks that commonly include, but are not limited to, handling basic customer inquiries, and troubleshooting simple issues. This is the type of challenge that virtual assistants can take a leading role in resolving.

Instead of having highly skilled people or other resources doing low-level, routine work, virtual assistants can remove or reduce many of these tasks by providing the capability to safely delegate them to a Tier 1 resource. This allows for the highly skilled resources to focus their time and effort on complex and/or organizationally important tasks.

A well-configured virtual assistant can limit a user’s ability to do only certain tasks based on their level of permissions, as well as lower the time and effort needed to train resources in a typically higher-than-normal turnover position. Tier 1 resources can interact conversationally with a virtual assistant without worrying about navigating complex administrative interfaces, finding the appropriate job aide or inadvertently causing issues by being in the wrong area.

Additionally, opportunities to further leverage these critical applications are missed because these experienced administrators are unable to partake in necessary planning sessions.

Introducing Isabel

One example of how this can benefit both an organization’s users and IT staff is through a chat- and voice-enabled virtual assistant named Isabel, which I created to utilize the REST API integration of Singlewire’s InformaCast Fusion product.

InformaCast Fusion is a hybrid cloud-based mass notification system that reaches people via on-premises and mobile devices. This is a very popular application in the healthcare, education and government verticals, which typically have limited IT resources. The virtual assistant provides an easy and streamlined ability to administratively manage users, weather alerts, message templates and Dialcast, to name a few.

By making use of Azure Cognitive Services, I’m able to provide a conversational interaction between the end user and the virtual assistant to gather and confirm the required information and provide fulfillment of the requested task. Furthermore, interacting with Isabel provides the end user the ability to trigger emergency notifications by voice and chat. Its conversational intelligence and ability to decipher exactly what the user means in an emergency is impressive.

Virtual Assistant in Emergencies

We all know that in an emergency, people can have trouble thinking or speaking clearly. For example, what would happen if a user needed to trigger a tornado alert and they are in a hurry or panicked? It’s possible they might say something like “A twister is coming,” or “I see a funnel cloud close by” or something similar but doesn't include the word tornado.

In these situations, Isabel is smart enough to know you want to trigger a tornado alert. The ability to effectively process natural language significantly expands the power and reach of virtual assistants to aid an organization in meeting its goals.

Next Steps Toward ICX

The next generation of intelligent customer experience (ICX) is starting to gain real traction, and now is the chance to get ahead of the curve and set your organization apart from the competition. Watch a video here detailing virtual assistants created within CDW’s ICX practice, including seeing see Isabel in action.


Story by Daniel Snow,  an Intelligent CX Principal Consultant for CDW’s Digital Velocity. Daniel has over 12 years of collaboration engineering experience, and helps organizations utilize conversational AI and cognitive services  to maximize the effectiveness of their internal staff to best service their customers.